Bollywood star Vicky Kaushal had to use his imagination to get under the skin of Sardar Udham Singh, the Indian freedom fighter hanged for assassinating Michael O’Dwyer in London.
Vicky, who is starring in the titular role in Sardar Udham, which releases on Amazon Prime Video on October 16, told The Financial Express: “I think the biggest tool when it comes to a process like this… it becomes your imagination.”
The actor said the director, a team of 200-300 people were creating that world for him so that he could get into his costume, makeup, become the character in the physical form and then dive into that world. He added that he could only imagine how he must have felt and then tried to truthfully touch that world.
Vicky also admitted that he did not think and act. He trusts his instincts and goes into that space and completely surrenders himself.
The film, which has been 21 years in the making, first germinated from director Shoojit Sircar’s visit to Jallianwala Bagh. He relied on statements from survivors of the massacre and documents from when Udham Singh was in prison in London to weave the narrative.
Sircar, who first made a name for himself with the sleeper hit Vicky Donor, told The Financial Express: “He was quite mysterious. There was no particular document as such. We have put together all (the) dots and tried to create a story.”
Sircar initially wanted to do a project on Bhagat Singh, another revolutionary martyr, when he was in college. He said he wanted to do a project on Bhagat Singh and then Udham Singh. But finally, he said, he had made a film for both.
The director also revealed that Irrfan Khan was his first choice for the role because of the intensity that the character required.
When he had to re-cast the role following Irrfan’s death in 2020, Sircar said: “We needed that quality… somebody who could be as intense as Irrfan.”
He added that Vicky’s role in Masaan played a huge part in him landing the role. Sircar said he found a certain kind of intensity in Vicky, adding that it was a huge responsibility even for the actor.
Vicky, however, doesn’t think that he can step into Irrfan’s shoes. He does hope that his spirit and blessings are still there “and with that spirit you can just continue and give your best”.
When asked about his choice of patriotic films such as Raazi and Uri: The Surgical Strike, while his contemporaries were going with the tried-and-tested romantic comedy formula, Vicky said every contemporary actor was trying to push their boundaries and wanted to films they wanted to be surprised with.
In his own personal journey, the actor said, he tended to get attached to films that appealed to my heart. There are directors that he wants to work with and when everything comes together and he feels right in the heart, he just dives into it.
Vicky added “a good script” was more important to him than the genre.